Best of the Month | Recovering from extreme heat and preparing Seattle’s roads and bridges for a changing climate

Crews completed urgent pavement repairs on West Marginal Way just north of Highland Park Way SW. Photo: SDOT

Summary 

  • Our talented Crews have been repairing roads that were damaged by the summer’s extreme heat.
  • Crews keep the city moving no matter the weather condition. In this blog, we’ve shared the latest on the repairs. 
  • Among more, when temperatures reach 85 degrees or higher, we spray down our steel draw bridges to keep them cool so that they can function properly. 
  • The City of Seattle is working to reduce carbon pollution from transportation and adapt our infrastructure to withstand rising temperatures. 

Seattle’s historic high summer temperatures caused severe damage to roads. Our Crews have been hard at work this month to repair them.  

Our engineers evaluated the reported road damage around the city and prioritized repairs based on public safety and impact to the traveling public. 

Our Crews quickly got to work and repaired severe pavement damage on West Marginal Way north of Highland Park Way SW where the concrete buckled in the heat. We also completed repair work to damaged concrete on 36th Ave SW between SW Avalon Way and SW Oregon St. Crews demolished, removed, and replaced eight massive concrete panels ahead of schedule.  

We also finished work on NE 68th St (between 51st Ave NE and 52nd Ave N) and completed temporary repairs at the intersection of S Angeline St and 38th Ave S and SW Holly St (between 40th Ave SW and 41st Ave SW).  

A huge thanks to our amazing Crews who worked day in and day out (and sometimes overnight!) to keep Seattle moving.  

We rely on our Crews to help us prepare and respond to whatever Mother Nature has in store for us (rain, sleet, snow, or record-setting heat). Our Crews’ dedication and resilience is a major reason our transportation system continues to work for the traveling public.  

Two hardworking SDOT employees pose next to a winter salt truck
Two hardworking SDOT employees pose next to a winter salt truck in 2019. Photo: Jeanne Clark 

We’re prepared for more heat. 

When temperatures reach 85 degrees or higher, we proactively spray down our steel draw bridges to keep them cool as part of our ongoing bridge maintenance program. This is necessary because the high temperatures can cause the steel to expand and potentially create problems for opening and closing functions.   

The Fremont Bridge gets a cool spray down during the June 2021 heat wave.
The Fremont Bridge gets a cool spray down during the June 2021 heat wave. The bridge is more than 100 years old and made of steel. Photo: Michal Pearlstein.

As climate change makes extreme heat more common, we’re preparing our city’s transportation infrastructure and roads for the future. 

Reducing carbon pollution 

To do our part to slow the pace of climate change, we’re working to reduce carbon pollution from our transportation systems. We’re building more protected bike lanes and dedicated transit lanes throughout the city to make it easier and safer for you to walk, bike, roll, scoot, and take transit, which are climate-friendly alternatives to traveling by car. We’ve also committed to electrifying our transportation system to reduce harmful emissions and make Seattle a healthy and more resilient city.  

People biking and walking a dog on the Lake Washington Blvd Stay Healthy Street.
People enjoying the Lake Washington Blvd Stay Healthy Street. Stay Healthy Streets provide more space for people walking, rolling, and biking. Photo: SDOT 

Prioritizing investments 

We’re actively working to fix the inequities to lower-income residents and neighborhoods who are most vulnerable to climate change, least equipped to adapt, and who are already disproportionately bearing the health and financial impacts of climate change by prioritizing climate-friendly investments, design incentives, and deploying pilot projects. 

Adapting infrastructure 

We’ll also need to adapt our existing infrastructure to withstand rising temperatures. This involves doing more preventative maintenance and updating our standards as temperatures increase. For example, we can expect to do more work like sealing joints and cracks on asphalt and concrete, which is common in hotter cities like Phoenix and Las Vegas.  

Managing trees, plants, and green infrastructure 

We also manage trees, plants, and other green infrastructure to improve the health, safety, and welfare of people who walk and bike and to protect streets from the hot sun. 

A person walking on the sidewalk beneath trees
Trees help keep our city cool when temperatures rise. Learn more about our trees and landscaping work. Photo: Jeanne Clark 

Our Landscape Architect’s Office staff review every SDOT Capital Project, public, or privately funded development in Seattle to retain and protect existing mature trees, and maximize shade and canopy cover over buildings, streets, and sidewalks. We’re also working to upgrade irrigation systems so that we can operate them remotely using smart controllers along with flow control devices to minimize water use in medians, planting strips, and landscaped areas citywide. 

Adapting best practices 

In coordination with all other departments in the City of Seattle, we’re adapting our best practices for design, construction, and management of infrastructure to withstand rising temperatures.  

To learn more, check out Seattle’s Climate Action Plan, which outlines policies and a strategy to reduce carbon pollution from our transportation and building sectors and make Seattle a national leader in fighting climate change.